Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

9780230768178

RATING: 4.5/5

BLURB: “On 17 July 1918, four young women walked down twenty-three steps into the cellar of a house in Ekaterinburg. Together with their parents and their teenage brother, they were brutally murdered. Their crime: to be the daughters of the last Tsar and Tsarita of All the Russias. ‘Four Sisters’ is an authoritative and poignant account of the lives of Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Drawing on their own letters and diaries, Rappaport paints a vivid picture of the sisters’ lives in the dying days of the Romanov dynasty. We see their hopes and dreams, the difficulty of coping with a mother who was a chronic invalid and a haemophiliac brother and, latterly, the trauma of the revolution and its terrible consequences.”

REVIEW: I have always been fascinated by the Romanov Imperial family, particularly these final seven individuals, who make up the last ruling family of Russia. The four sisters – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia – are vividly bought to life within this work. The Grand Duchesses are shown as they grow from innocent girls into accomplished and caring young women. We learn of their secret crushes, their work as nurses during the First World War, the games they played, the struggles they dealt with in coping with their unwell mother Alexandra and brother Alexei, their love for the notorious Grigory Rasputin, and above all we learn of how sheltered their lives were and how they seemed to have longed for a sense of normality, to be part of the ‘outside world’. What I enjoyed most about this book is that Rappaport clearly presents the four princesses as individuals; their collective nickname, OTMA, and the fact that the most famous photographs of them involve them all dresssed to match and seated as a group, means that often in books about this period their individual identities and personalities can get lost and muddled together. Here we learn about the passionate heart and caring nature of Olga; the serious but sensitive Tatiana; the sulky but devoted Maria; and the mischevious, lively Anastasia. I was absolutely fascinated to learn more about the sisters as individuals, and surprised to learn how difficult their lives often were, and how it was mostly their reputation and image that allowed this last Imperial family to survive as long as they did. The girls became a symbol of innocence and hope, and in the end were taken down by the perceived extravagance of their regime, which had almost nothing to do with them at all. My only minor criticism was that I felt that the section of the book dealing with their last days at Ekaterinburg were a little rushed; this can be excused, however, by the fact that Rappaport has published a book solely dealing with this time, which I have already ordered and am looking forward to reading. I absolutely loved this book and relished the opportunity to learn more about these young women who are, so often, neglected by history.

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One thought on “Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Books of 2016 | Coffee, Books and Paris

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